Testimony begins in civil case for Pittsburgh police beating
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Testimony continued this afternoon in the federal civil trial stemming from a Jan. 12, 2010, encounter between Homewood student Jordan Miles and Pittsburgh police officers Michael Saldutte, David Sisak and Richard Ewing.
Mr. Miles claimed plainclothes officers approached him without identifying themselves and is seeking damages for injuries he suffered when they beat him. The officers say he ran when they identified themselves and then resisted arrest when they caught him.
Charges against Mr. Miles were dismissed and no charges were filed against the officers.
Mr. Miles' mother, Terez Miles, began testifying this afternoon, and described the hours before the encounter.
Her son came home from a friend's house, and then played video games with his older brother, Brandon, she said. As he prepared to leave for his grandmother's house, where he typically slept, she noticed that he was wearing a new coat.
"I noticed that it had zippers and pockets and I thought it was a very nice coat," she said.
"Was there any bulge in either of those pockets?" asked Timothy O'Brien, one of Mr. Miles' attorneys.
"No," said Ms. Miles. She also said that she didn't see her son drinking any Mountain Dew that night.
The officers have said that they found a bottle of Mountain Dew when they arrested Mr. Miles, and that they mistook it for a gun.
Ms. Miles said her son was talking on his cell phone as he left minutes before the incident, and she said to him, "I love you."
She would not see him again until the next day, when he emerged from Allegheny County Jail with around a half dozen other men, she said.
"One of them was coming towards me, and I started to feel a little uncomfortable, because I didn't recognize him," she said. The man came to within a few feet. "He said, 'Mom, I need to go to the hospital.' And I went hysterical for a little while.
"I tried to hug Jordy, but his whole body jerked, so I let him go. And I said, 'Are you in pain?' And he said, 'Yes, everything hurts.'"
Testimony began this morning with the first witness, Patricia Porter, of Homewood, Mr. Miles' grandmother in whose Susquehanna Street home he stayed most nights. Ms. Porter, a retired city elementary school teacher with an engaging manner, called her grandson "very respectful of adult authority."
Cross examination of Ms. Porter focused largely on Mr. Miles'
grades. The plaintiff's team wants to show that his academic ability
plunged after the incident, with his grade point average dropping from 3.4 in the fall to 2.4 in the spring. The defense wants to show that he was never a good student.
Attorney James Wymard, representing Officer Sisak, said that Mr. Miles got Bs, Cs and Ds in subjects like English, math and science. "He didn't do well in math, did he?" he asked Ms. Porter.
A C grade "could just mean that perhaps you are not a good test taker at the time," she said. She said she "wouldn't downplay" the many As he got in music courses.
Mr. Wymard said that Mr. Miles graduated 85th out of 115 people in his class at the city's school for Creative and Performing Arts, and got SAT scores in the 300s, out of 800.
On the night of the encounter with police, Ms. Porter testified earlier, she tried to call Mr. Miles around 11 p.m. -- five minutes before he has said he was beaten by the officers -- but got a busy signal. By the early morning hours, she said, she was "hysterical," as was Terez Miles, her daughter.
By morning, she said, "Both of us were beside ourselves with worry."
The Zone 5 police station had no insight on his whereabouts, but police headquarters advised that he had been arrested and they should go to Pittsburgh Municipal Court for his arraignment.
Then Mr. Miles finally called, from jail. "He said, 'Nana, I've gotten arrested, and I don't know why," she said.
When he was released from jail in the late evening on Jan. 13, and Terez Miles saw him, she screamed, "'Oh my God, oh my God, look what they did to my son,'" said Ms. Porter. "'Look what they did to him!'"
Jurors were shown some of the now-well-publicized photos of Mr. Miles' swollen face. They looked attentively and repeatedly.
Ms. Porter described his medical treatment with multiple doctors after the encounter, and the changes in his personality.
"He became very, very sullen," she said. "He wasn't like himself at all, almost like he was embarrassed, that he did something wrong."
Robert Leicht, the attorney for Officer Ewing, opened the morning by telling the eight-member jury that the officers "have been painted ... to be monsters," but are family men.
He said the case is "not about race, it's not about guns, it's not about police brutality." It is about the fact, he said, that Mr. Miles "ran from the police when he was legally confronted.
"He slipped on the ice, fell on his face, causing injuries," he said.
Mr. Miles, 20, has said that the three plainclothes officers pulled their unmarked car in front of him, jumped out without identifying themselves, chased him down and savagely beat him.
The three officers have said they told him they were police and asked him why he was sneaking around a house that wasn't his, but he ran.
They say they mistook the bulge created by a Mountain Dew bottle in his pocket for a gun and arrested him, hitting him because he fiercely resisted.
Mr. Miles has said there was no bottle in his coat. He has claimed that the beating caused him brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder. Officer Sisak suffered a knee injury in the struggle.
Charges of aggravated assault, resisting arrest, escape and loitering against Mr. Miles were dismissed at a preliminary hearing. Neither U.S. Attorney David J. Hickton nor Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. found evidence to warrant the filing of criminal charges against the officers.
First Published July 18, 2012 11:38 am